COVID-19, News & Updates

Experts warn COVID-19 Surveys could be used to steal from People Worried about the Disease

August 25, 2020

Virtual coronavirus surveys could be used to take from people troubled about the disease, experts have warned.

Online questionnaires that look like they check whether people know about the spread of the pandemic are acquiring personal information that could be used for fraudulent activity. This is according to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute.

The surveys ask for details such as maiden names, family information, pets, and contact details, including email addresses and telephone numbers. These all bear the symbols of a data harvesting operation usually seen in financial fraud, and identity theft warned the institute.

“The general public should be wary of online quizzes, especially those themed around the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic,” said Katherine Hart, a lead officer at the CTSI.

“Many of them ask personal questions which may seem harmless at first, such as pet names; however, scammers can harvest this data to create a full profile of the target.

“Security questions for bank accounts and online passwords usually incorporate this kind of information.

“The public should remember that each little tidbit of information shared online is available to fraudsters to pick up and assemble into a target profile.

“My advice is – think about what you are putting online, and who could potentially see this information.

“Over time this adds up, and you may find that you have placed much more information about yourself online than you first thought.”

Due to the happening global pandemic, scammers take advantage of everything. And then there comes amid a flood of scams linked to the pandemic, as criminals seek to capitalize on people’s fears.

There are also things like fake food shopping vouchers, and a bogus text telling individuals they have been fined for going out during lockdown. According to some reports, this pandemic has prompted more than 170,000 complaints about scams related to everything from masks, face shields, and miracle cures to government stimulus payments and unemployment. Starting in January, COVID-19-related scams have made up about 8 percent of all fraud complaints reported to numerous law enforcement agencies and consumer groups. In recent months, that percentage has grown closer to 12 percent.

The complaints include scams done online, by phone and by other methods, and those aimed at stealing money directly from consumers and those aimed at gathering personal information so that scammers can steal victims’ identities, file phony tax returns or apply for other government benefits.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a surge in all kinds of scams, ranging from the doorstep to email, telephone and social media and everyone should be extra cautious of what they communicate online at this unprecedented time,” added Leon Livermore, chief executive of the CTSI

It’s not yet confident how long the outpouring of COVID-19 scams will last.

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